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Wednesday, March 17, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Bush touts health-care plan, takes veiled shots at Kerry's
By William Douglas
"The debate is whether or not the marketplace ought to have a function in determining the cost of health care, or whether or not the federal government ought to make all the decisions," Bush said yesterday during a "conversation on health care" hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "I've made my stand. I believe that the best health-care policy is one that empowers consumers, and one that understands the market."
Kerry had framed the debate differently Sunday in a town-hall meeting on health care in Bethlehem, Pa.
"Americans are staggering under the growing burden of health-care costs that are out of control, and the fact is George Bush hasn't lifted a finger to do anything about it. So I will use the money Bush spends on tax cuts for the wealthy to make health care more affordable for the middle class."
Of all the differences between Bush and Kerry, health care offers one of the most dramatic contrasts.
The president proposes to offer refundable tax credits to allow low-income Americans to buy health insurance; to form "associate health plans" that would let small businesses band together to get the best insurance rates for their employees; and to limit medical-malpractice awards.
Kerry's plan would provide health care-related tax credits to small businesses; have Washington pick up 75 percent of health-insurance cases over $50,000 to reduce costs for businesses and their workers; extend Medicaid coverage to low-income children and their parents; shift responsibility for those costs to Washington and away from cash-strapped state governments; and let workers buy into federal employees' health-coverage programs.
"The proposals are so (vastly) different," said Kenneth Thorpe, a former Clinton administration health-care official who has analyzed the proposals for Emory University.
Kerry's plan would cost $895 billion over 10 years, according to Thorpe's analysis, and would cover about 26.7 million uninsured Americans. Bush's proposal would cost $60 billion over 10 years and have an impact on 2 million to 3 million Americans, Thorpe estimates.
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